The candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, as well as the candidates of all other parties challenging for the presidency, have a card which President Muhammadu Buhari does not have. They will get the chance to choose a vice presidential candidate.
Buhari will certainly run with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo next year. Shortly after the firing of former DSS DG, Lawal Daura, there were reports that Buhari intended to replace Osinbajo on the ticket with the Ekiti Governor-Elect, Kayode Fayemi. But those speculations did not last long.
Zoning the Atiku running mate
The expectation is that Atiku will run with a Southerner. The real debate now is over which of the Southern zones should get it.
The South West argument
- The region was a key battleground in 2015. It was the only Southern region that Buhari won in 2015 with just over 600,000 votes. The PDP won convincingly in both the South South and South East, which are viewed as safe PDP regions.
- The belief is that giving the ticket to someone from the South West will tip it to the PDP this time.
- There are more votes to be won in the South West than either the South South or South East. In fact, the number of registered voters in the South West (>14 million) is double the number from the South East (>7 million). It is important to point however that more people voted from the South South in 2015 than in the South West which had more registered voters. That was because the candidate of the PDP hailed from that region.
The South East argument
- The South East and North Central are one of only two regions in the country that have not had a president or vice president since 1999. The two zones have both held the senate presidency though. In the last four years, the highest position being occupied by an Igbo individual is the deputy senate president.
- Giving the position to the South East may signal to the Igbos that Atiku is serious about having someone from that region emerge as president at the expiration of his four years (He has pledged to serve for just one term.)
- Even though the number of registered voters in the South East is far less than those from the South West, a sizeable number of those voters in the West are Igbos.
- The turnout of voters in the South East in 2015 was measly, an Igbo VP candidate can generate excitement in the region.
- Having someone from the South West on the ticket won’t change much in terms of turnout. The PDP still ran a close race in the South West even without a Yoruba person on its ballot in 2015. Also, with Atiku strongly campaigning on a platform of restructuring, which is a famous rallying cry for South West elite, he will give a good fight in that region anyway.
The possible VP nominees for Atiku
Gbenga Daniel (South West): There are reports that the 62-year old former Ogun governor is being seriously considered. He is the current DG of the Atiku Campaign Organization who did a solid job piloting the candidate over the finish line at the PDP convention.
- He has Atiku’s trust and confidence
- He is an experienced campaigner
- With Atiku facing corruption allegations, he cannot afford to run with a candidate who is currently in court over corruption allegations. The EFCC has accused Daniel of misappropriation of funds from his time as governor.
- His candidacy may not generate the necessary excitement even in his South West region.
- The Atiku campaign message for 2019 is the economy. Daniel may not be the best messenger for an economic message.
Akinwunmi Adesina (South West): Considered to be one of the few star performers in the Goodluck Jonathan administration in which he served as agriculture minister, the 58-year old Adesina is the current president of the African Development Bank.
- Strong international recognition
- Strong messenger for the economic message which Atiku hopes to push
- Clean reputation
- Choosing him could be seen as a peace offering for former Pres. Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the one that nominated him into the Goodluck Jonathan cabinet, and was Adesina’s special guest last year when he was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize.
- No strong base back home
Peter Obi (South East): The 57-year old former Anambra governor was long considered as a contender for Atiku’s VP slot even before the primary election held.
- Still widely regarded as one of Nigeria’s best ever performing governors.
- Has strong name recognition
- A solid campaigner with strong appeal
- As a successful businessman in his own right, Obi complements Atiku’s strong pro-business credentials.
- His successor as Anambra governor has edged him out in the state’s local politics.
- Although APGA has a presidential candidate for 2019, offering Obi the Atiku VP slot may force Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra to make a deal with Pres. Muhammadu Buhari in order to spite his Obi.
- He is not a favorite of the Igbo political elite
Ayo Fayose (South West): At this moment, the 58-year old Fayose is the only PDP governor in the South West. That is only for a few days more however as Kayode Fayemi of the APC would be sworn-in as new Ekiti governor next week.
- Still commands some loyalty among the Ekiti voting public. Ekiti however has one of the lowest voting populations in the country.
- Undisciplined campaigner given to excessive gaffes
- Expected to have troubles with the EFCC from next week when he loses his immunity
- Less than satisfactory record as Ekiti governor
- Was very openly anti-Atiku in the PDP primary season
- Has very public ambitions to be president which may be distracting in an Atiku administration
- Terrible messenger for the Atiku economic message
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (South South): The 64-year old Okonjo-Iweala is seen as one of the main front-runners for the running mate slot.
- Strong name recognition
- Excellent international appeal having interacted at the very highest levels of government, private sector and development sectors in the world
- Potential to excite women voters
- Strong messenger for Atiku’s economic message
- She is from the South South (Delta state). South South had just held the presidency up until 2015. However she is Delta-Igbo and is married to an Abian.
- Considered as too straight-froward and may not patronize influential party members
- Not well liked by some members of the PDP who accuse her of being one of the reasons for the loss of Goodluck Jonathan in 2015
- Recall that she was kicked out of the finance ministry under the Obasanjo presidency because some of her reforms may have blocked access to campaign funds.
Osita Chidoka (South East): The 47-year old former aviation minister is currently an adviser to the PDP national chairman.
- At 47, Chidoka is relatively young
- Has reasonable experience in the workings of the government
- Considering that he would head the Economic Council, Chidoka does not have sufficient economic chops
- No real electoral base. Badly thrashed in last year’s Anambra elections.
- His identification in the Biafran struggle might imperil him on the national scene
- His performances in all his previous roles have not been particularly eye-catching
Charles Soludo (South East): The 58-year old former CBN governor is also considered as one of the possible nominees.
- Strong economics background, as an Economics professor and former CBN governor
- Recognized as a reformer from his time at the CBN
- Currently not even a member of the PDP, having defected to APGA
- Currently in the political wilderness with low political clout.
Ike Ekweremadu (South East): The 56-year old Ekweremadu has been in active politics for more than two decades and is seen as one of the favorites for the VP slot.
- Ekweremadu is a favorite of the political elite in the South East
- Strong political base
- Good campaigner
- An Ekweremadu announcement is unlikely to generate excitement
- Has pending corruption allegations which could be exploited by the ruling party
- Not a good messenger for Atiku’s economic message
Femi Fani-Kayode (South West)